By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 16, 2010; D01
Jim Haslett has been on his new job as the Washington Redskins' defensive coordinator for three days, and the club only officially announced his appointment to Mike Shanahan's staff late Friday afternoon. But the football lifer -- who has served his time in the NFL as a linebacker, a defensive coordinator and a head coach -- can already tick off the names and skills of the Redskins' defensive players.
His job now: Join with Shanahan, the new head coach, in figuring out whether the franchise truly wants to use those players -- rookie Pro Bowl linebacker-end Brian Orakpo, star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, veteran middle linebacker London Fletcher and defensive end Andre Carter -- to convert the Redskins to a 3-4 alignment, a scheme with which Haslett had success during his tenure as the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive coordinator in the late 1990s.
"I think you got the personnel to do whatever you want," Haslett said. "You got to decide what angle you want to go. The secondary doesn't make a difference [in terms of what front to use], but I think you got to decide what's best to run for you to be effective.
"I think the 3-4 is a good fit for them. Guys like Orakpo, he could really do it. Haynesworth could do it. London, he's done it before. I think [linebacker] Rocky [McIntosh] could do it. I think Carter could be a good rush linebacker, but he's a good defensive end, too. Those are all things we'll go through."
Haslett, 54, last served in the NFL in 2008 as the interim head coach of the St. Louis Rams, for whom he was originally hired as the defensive coordinator in 2006. He was the head coach of the Florida Tuskers of the fledgling United Football League in 2009 -- "I had a lot of fun doing that," he said -- but he badly wanted back into the NFL. He was the head coach of the New Orleans Saints from 2000 to 2005.
"I think it's a great fit," said Randy Mueller, an executive with the San Diego Chargers who was once the general manager in New Orleans, where he hired Haslett as the head coach. "My first reaction was I was very happy for him, and happy for Mike, because he made a great choice. The guy is just an excellent coach."
Haslett said he and Shanahan, who have never before worked together, spent "probably two weeks" during 2009 -- when neither was in the NFL -- talking about philosophy and defensive strategy. Haslett formally interviewed with Shanahan and new General Manager Bruce Allen on Monday, and finalized a deal Tuesday night -- before he had an opportunity to interview with the New York Giants.
"I have a great deal of respect for what Jim has done in this league," Shanahan said in a statement released through the team. "He is one of the game's sharpest defensive minds and has a great passion for the sport. He will be instrumental to our success in Washington."
Haslett is only the second coach to be officially named to Shanahan's staff, joining assistant head coach-running backs Bobby Turner. Kyle Shanahan, Mike's son and the new offensive coordinator, was due at the team's Ashburn headquarters Friday night, though the team has not officially announced his hiring, nor has it acknowledged the employment of linebackers coach Lou Spanos, a longtime assistant with Pittsburgh.
The announcement of Haslett's appointment was also accompanied by the formal announcement of the retirement of Greg Blache, who served as the Redskins' defensive coordinator under Jim Zorn from 2008 to '09 and was the defensive line coach for four seasons before that. Blache, 60, had to be talked out of retirement in 2008 to accept the defensive coordinator position, and he was widely expected by members of Zorn's staff to retire at season's end. His defenses ranked fourth and 10th in the league in 2008 and '09, respectively, but he was criticized -- publicly by Haynesworth -- for not making better use of his players.
"I regret that I won't be able to work with him," Shanahan said in the statement. "We'll miss his discipline, his loyalty and his consistency, and wish all the best to Greg and his family in his retirement."
Haslett, meanwhile, is already preparing for what will be his 25th season in the NFL. His son, Chase, is a high school quarterback and pitcher in suburban St. Louis, and Jim Haslett spent Friday driving Chase to a baseball camp. But he said his few days as a Redskins assistant already gave him a sense of what is to come.
"I walked into a restaurant the other day, and people were high-fiving me, saying, 'Great to have you here,' " Haslett said. "The only other place that has passionate fans like that that I know is with the Pittsburgh Steelers. . . . It'll be a great challenge, but I think it's a great opportunity."
Redskins Note: The Redskins are taking steps to help victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, using the private plane of owner Daniel Snyder to help fly medical supplies, personnel and clothing to the impoverished nation. The franchise announced Friday that it is partnering with Diageo -- the beverage company with which the team has a long-standing business relationship -- to send aid.
"We're not a relief organization, but there are times when our resources allow us to step in and make a difference, if only a small one," Snyder said in a statement released by the team. "Diageo has been involved in relief efforts around the world for many years, and we're fortunate to be able to partner with them. Getting the right people and supplies to Haiti is critically important, and we're providing our best resources."